The journey back to Hong Kong, through immigration and Covid testing, was long and boring, but that was really just the warm-up. After one week in the official Q and one week to go, I am certain of a few things and continuing to learn more about myself and the world.
A short list:
- To function, I need dessert every day.
- Females are strong as h*ck.
- My next house better have a dishwasher.
- Bra technology needs to be updated.
- I’ve pretended for long enough – I just don’t like fruit. Unless someone else cuts some watermelon.
- There is a random dark hair that grows from the middle of the back of my hand. I think it’s a runaway from another location.
- Online shopping produces nearly the same high as in-person shopping, but feels dangerously like you’re not spending any money.
- From what I can see from the peephole I stare through incessantly, my new neighbor seems nice and social, but in a delightfully “everyone is gone by 11pm” sort of way.
- I have good people in my life.
- I’m truly thankful for the internet that keeps us all together.
- I can get in my own way, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and often do.
- We are none of us meant to be truly alone.
You might know that my nickname is “Danger.” (If you are a former student or parent, please unread that sentence.) That nickname was earned. I like to do things for the heck of it, the thrill of doing something no one wants to do or has done, so 14 days of government mandated quarantine, with a GPS tracking bracelet, a phone app, can’t leave my 150 sq foot studio, why not? What a story this will be to tell. What an experiment! What a kick that will be!
I didn’t have a choice, really. I wanted to go home to the States for the summer, but I live and work in Hong Kong, which has a scientifically-based functioning national response to Covid-19. I knew I had to cut my normal summer short by 14 days in order to be back in HK in time to quarantine before starting work. My long Sunday at the airport was indeed something for the books (you can read about it here) and luckily the first night at home in my apartment passed in a kind of low blood sugar, low sleep, jet-lagged time warp.
On Monday by about 10am, I had finished the unpacking, started the laundry, brewed two pots of coffee, puzzled over what I’d left behind in California, checked on my plants, tried to remember what it was like to be alone. I sat and sipped and missed the scratching of the dogs at the door, their curiosity and warm weight curled against me closer than a shadow.
I had thirteen days ahead to somehow fill with . . . whatever I wanted, really. What I wanted was to make the time pass quickly and have some kind of meaning. So I did a very teachery thing and made myself an adult star chart. I’m very fueled by competition, even just against myself. And colors and stickers and rewards and deadlines and grades. I had thought about things that would be good for mind, body, and soul, for the present and the future. I had considered things I should do everyday, big goals, small challenges, and ways to reward myself.
Like any intelligent person with self-awareness, I put some REAL simple things on there. You gotta start with things you know you can do! Something you probably already did before you wrote the list of goals! For me, it was “Shower” which this California girl who grew up in droughts still never takes for granted, and “make bed” because that is just straightening out the duvet. I don’t even have a sheet. BUT I get to check something off when I do it! Success! I was tempted to write “put on a bra” but I’m actually ready to start our next revolution about those. They just be optional in Covid times.
I had things about the apartment I wanted to organize or clean, and I get such a high from doing those. Instant gratification, baby! On the professional side, I applied for my Masters in Education, updated my resume, built a class website, and am doing some professional development. I’ve been reading a ton, sleeping whenever I want, consuming copious amounts of tea, and making note of any cool thing I do.
I challenged myself to not to watch Netflix or order delivery food or buy any new books until I’d gone through everything I already have. It’s fun to watch those numbers of days go up as I stand strong. I also wanted to up my workouts to get back in shape after recovery from my stress fracture in my foot and several months of just “it’s a pandemic! I’ma eat all my feelings” attitude. I had originally anticipated learning a lot of Tik Tok dances, but it’s no longer available in Hong Kong. My next dream was to learn the “Single Ladies” dance, but I watched the video and gave that a hard “LOLLLLL Rachel, you need to know thyself better.” So I’ve been doing kettlebells and throwing myself daily dance parties to make my Fitbit steps. They should probably be recorded and shown on television as comedic relief during these tough times.
I’ve also discovered that I am *that* neighbor. Everytime I hear the slightest noise in my hallway, I rush to the peephole and try to find every angle to assess the situation. You might recall I have a psychotic neighbor that screams obscenities and political slogans at all hours, but we’ve issued a legal letter against him and it’s calmed down a bit. I still keep wondering what passive aggressive thing to do next time he disturbs my slumber . . . this morning I was sorely tempted to grind coffee beans at 5am when I woke up. That would have done it, I’m sure. But I resisted. To my right, I have a NEW neighbor! He is a tall Indian guy, his girlfriend is a short Chinese girl, and they have very cute conversations and kisses outside my door in front of the elevator every night. He has friends over and takes out a LOT of recycling and pizza boxes to the trash. I plan on introducing myself at the first possible moment post-quarantine.
I’ve been trying to stay cheerful and busy, but this is hard. And then, because I’m me, some “me” drama was added in.
You might recall from my last few blogs that I had a tooth extraction and implant right before I left. I had been given the impression on Friday for my follow up, hours before I flew out, that my mouth would all be healed up and cool to go, and it felt like it was. Starting Monday, however, I had intense pain, bleeding, and swelling.
I emailed my symptoms and photos to my California dentist. Do you know where the internet leads you if you search “gum infection” and keep clicking until your dentist answers you? It leads you to “brain infection” and “painful DEATH.” I was mostly but not all the way sure I wasn’t about to die. I sent a video text to my mom, crying, and I said “I know this isn’t the hardest thing, but it’s hard! And I’m alone and tired and scared and it’s hard!”
I awoke to an email from the dentist that said, and I quote, “AHHHHHHH it’s not getting better! You need penicillin!” Which was super comforting.
A series of sobbing phone calls to my mom, bad words, and a long conversation with the government agent on the other end of the HK national health line, I was making a jailbreak out of quarantine for public hospital to get some drugs. Upon arrival, I was isolated until my Covid test came back negative. Because I had been so hysterical that morning, I hadn’t properly dressed and hadn’t had anything but one coffee before I left the house. I was in pajamas with n empty water bottle.
So there I was, hangry, freezing, panicking about my future, wearing a huge Quarantine bracelet that had me feeling like Goody Weight in the corner, being stared at with a giant “Q” painted across my chest. To do all this alone, in a foreign country, in a pandemic, with a dental emergency, really stretched my limits. I had a hard time forming sentences.
The hospital was okay if you liked peeing on top of a stranger’s excrement in a bathroom without a closing door to the waiting room and watching dying people unloaded from stretchers in front of you. It was disorienting to not be able to understand anything. Besides when I was directly addressed in English, everything else was obviously in Cantonese. Normally I’d find that white noise comforting but not in a heightened situation. My brain told me that all conversations around me were somehow also about me. It was great.
Because of Covid, the doctor was reluctant to look directly inside my mouth for a diagnosis. Luckily, my OCD had been taking photos every three hours for the last six days, so we were able to look at those and get some meds without de-masking. I spent about six hours at the hospital, and it was scary at times, but everything, including doctors visits and four medications, was only $23 USD. Kind of amazing. Cheers for universal healthcare.
Having that tiny jailbreak from Quarantine was scary but I also rolled down the taxicab window and stuck my head out like a dog on a road trip. I’m not looking forward to finding a dentist, getting the tooth removed (again) and whatever the healing process is for that. But it is what it is.
I have said “I can’t take anymore” a thousand times before this, and I have survived and grown through each of those circumstances. I don’t look good flailing through it. It’s not sophisticated and maybe I have to come back and learn lessons over and over but. I’ll make it. I know that. God reminds me that He loves me, so I gots to chill and it will be okay because He’s got a plan. He won’t tell me any of this directly. Nope. The Big Guy keeps it interesting. (Hats off, Jesus!)
One more week of the big Q.